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Typhus, Murine (Endemic)

What is flea-borne typhus?

Flea-borne typhus is a disease caused by the bacteria Rickettsia typhi and Rickettsia felis. Also called murine typhus, most cases in the United States are reported from Texas, California, and Hawaii. Prior to 2006, the last reported case in Orange County was in 1993. According to California Department of Public Health, flea-borne typhus is considered endemic (always present) in Orange County, but cases are reported from other parts of California.

How do you get flea-borne typhus?

Typhus bacteria are transferred to humans usually as the result of flea bites. Infected fleas have the bacteria in their feces and can contaminate the skin surface when the flea bites. If the person scratches the flea bite area, some of the bacteria in the flea feces can enter the person’s blood stream.

What animals can carry the typhus bacteria?

Fleas, as well as opossums, rats, mice, and other small mammals, can carry the Rickettsia bacteria.

What are the symptoms of flea-borne typhus?

Infected persons may experience fever, headache, chills, and muscle aches 6 -14 days after contact with an infected flea. A rash that starts several days after the initial symptoms is also common. Nausea, vomiting or cough may also be present. Most illnesses are mild, but about 10% of patients have a more severe illness and need to be hospitalized. Death from typhus is rare. Most persons recover within a few days after starting treatment with antibiotics.

How do you protect yourself from flea-borne typhus?

Remove pet food and other outside food sources, cover garbage containers, and trim vegetation around buildings to discourage opossums, rodents and feral cats from living around your home. If you see live or dead opossums, feral cats or other animals on your property, contact your local Animal Control agency. Use flea control products on pet dogs or cats, and keep cats indoors.